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Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Weston Homes Stadium

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Talking Tactics: Tactical subs prove crucial for Posh in League One promotion clash

Sunderland and Peterborough played out a close encounter and shared the points at the final whistle – but how did the game look from a data perspective?

Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images


Lee Johnson decided to tweak the team and formation ahead of the Peterborough game.

McLaughlin, Scowen and Gooch all dropped to the subs bench with Winchester, Leadbitter and Stewart coming in. This meant Max Power slotted into right back and Charlie Wyke played off Ross Stewart who came in as a target man for Sunderland.

Peterborough made one change, bringing back Jack Taylor following time off with an injury.

Many sources claim Sunderland line up 4-2-2-2 but we know that it is 4-4-2

First Half

Sunderland started the first half extremely well. Although we didn’t create many clear-cut chances, we were on top and had control of the midfield battle. Peterborough saw less of the football but did have a great opportunity when McFadzean was caught out of position - Lee Burge coming to his rescue.

Second Half

The second half started in a similar fashion before Darren Ferguson made substitutions in the 56th minute. This proved to be a huge boost for the Posh, who upped the tempo and managed to break through the defence and score when Dembele was put through on goal by Thompson. Five minutes after conceding, Lee Johnson rolled the dice and made four subs. This neutralised Peterborough and as the game moved towards the final 10 minutes, the home team started to defend deeper. Sunderland scored from a McGeady freekick in the 80th minute and largely dominated the final 10 minutes before securing a valuable away point.


xG map of Peterborough v Sunderland

You can see the effect of the subs on the xG (expected goals) map, as Peterborough made subs in the 56th minute and their xG goes from around 0.3 to 0.9 within 10 minutes. Sunderland’s is more gradual as the match goes on, showing we had more difficult chances to score and Peterborough had the more clear cut.

Average Locations

These are the average player locations before the first sub is made. Clarke-Harris (9), who had a quiet game, is dropping deep into midfield to get the ball. What is interesting about Sunderland’s locations is that McGeady likes to come inside to receive the football. Jordan Jones is the exact opposite, he goes further out wide and almost becomes a third forward as he plays that high up.

Passing Heat Maps

Peterborough really like to focus on the left side of the pitch. This can be seen here and in the average player locations posted above, as Peterborough have five players on the left-hand side of the pitch. Burrows (16) and Szmodics (15) on the player locations map both go to the left-hand side of the pitch hence why the majority of activity is found there. Peterborough did get some joy from our attacking the other side with McFadzean at left back. I am surprised they didn’t attack more down that side.

Sunderland have a more spread out starting location for passing, O’Nien (LCB) attempted 62 passes and Max Power (RB, CM) attempted 76 passes (the highest two players recorded in the match). This is reflected in the heat map as their locations have the most activity. Sunderland attempted most of the passes towards the right-wing to where Jordan Jones was playing. This may explain why Jones’ average position is so high.

Key passing stat

  • Sunderland made 61% of its total passes in the first half compared to 39% in the 2nd half.
  • Peterborough made 55% of its passes in the first half and went down to 45% in the second half.

This is down to teams playing cautiously. In a big game with a lot to lose teams will pass it rather than risk losing possession.


Sunderland only managed two shots in the box

On reflection, Sunderland might be disappointed we didn’t shoot more in the box as two shots is extremely low. Shooting inside the box, as you can guess, increases your chances of scoring massively. That is why our xG is lower than Peterborough’s.

Peterborough managed to have more shots in the box compared to Sunderland

Peterborough did work the ball around the box (despite having less of it) and ended up with more shots inside the box than outside. That is why Peterborough have a higher xG due to shots closer to the goal.

Who should feel happier about the game?

I’m biased in saying this but Sunderland should feel a lot better about that result. We did have more of the football, but the way Peterborough played after making the subs in the 56th minute had us on the ropes until we made subs in the 70th minute. In the end, Sunderland could have won after the deflection hit the outside of the post and went out.

Peterborough were averaging 2.44 points per home game (Sunderland 1.73) and only dropped points for the fifth time at home this season which shows how difficult teams are finding travelling to the Posh.

We still have eight games left and the best away record in League One!


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